On Thursday, President Obama authorized targeted strikes on militants in Iraq.
BuzzFeed analyzed the language used in 5,276 White House press briefings since 1993, the year Bill Clinton took office. Through these transcripts, it’s possible to glimpse key shifts in American foreign policy, as spoken by public officials.
“Iraq” first spikes in 1998, when the United Nations began withdrawing weapons inspectors from the country. The highest peak corresponds to the beginning of the Iraq War. The two smaller spikes in 2010 and 2011 reflect the first drawdown and the final announcement that all troops would be leaving Iraq.
3. “Weapons of Mass Destruction”
Mentions of “weapons of mass destruction” closely mirror mentions of Iraq — until the Bush administration couldn’t find them.
4. “Air Strikes” / “Boots on the Ground”
President Obama has authorized air strikes against ISIS militanst. The last time “air strikes” were mentioned frequently? Bosnia. In 1999, NATO conducted air strikes as part of the Kosovo War. On the other hand, “boots on the ground,” echoing a different tactic, has become increasingly popular over the past decade.
President Obama has called ISIS’ acts against the members of the Yazidi sect “genocide.” Earlier mentions of the term spiked during the Kosovo War and the emergence of Darfur crisis as a major foreign policy issue in the mid-2000s.
Though drone strikes have been used since the early 2000s, they received scant mention during a long period between early 2004 and late 2012:
- The family of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell in July three days after she was detained during a traffic stop, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court.
- Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean have exceeded 2,000, making 2015 the deadliest year for people trying to reach Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.
- At least 24 homes have been lost and one firefighter killed as dozens of wildfires continue to ravage drought-stricken California.